The Three Treasures

I go to the Buddha for guidance. I shall become one with the Buddha. I go to the Dharma for guidance. I shall become one with the Dharma. I go to the Sangha for guidance. I shall become one with the Sangha. These statements are part of the opening of the service at our temple. In Buddhism this is known as taking refuge in the Three Treasures or Three Jewels. What are the Three Treasures? Why do we take refuge in them?

Webster’s Dictionary defines “refuge” as, “shelter or protection from danger.” The First Noble Truth in Buddhism is the inevitability of suffering. This suffering is the “danger” from which we seek refuge.

The Buddha is the first treasure. Gautama Buddha was a human being, not a god. He lived and died over 2,500 years ago. When we speak of going to the Buddha for guidance this is not done by prayer. The guidance comes from looking at his life and our gratitude for his presentation of the teachings. That he was human and was able to attain enlightenment is an inspiration. This reminds and encourages us that we too can overcome suffering in our lives.

The Dharma is the second treasure. Often referred to as the teachings of the Buddha, it is more than that. The Dharma is the universal truths. These include the impermanence of all things, the law of cause and effect known as karma, the infinite compassion and wisdom in the universe, and our ego driven ignorance as the cause of our suffering. When we take refuge in the Dharma we apply these truths to our life to overcome suffering. Gautama Buddha did not say these truths were his nor did he say they were a divine revelation. His enlightenment was the realization of these truths. Afterwards, he spent the last forty-five years of his life sharing these truths with others. He never preached that the teachings be believed simply because he said so. Rather, he said you should only believe them after you have experienced their truth for yourself.

The Sangha is the third treasure. Originally, this only included the monks and other disciples that followed the teachings. Through the centuries this has grown to include all that live the Dharma teachings. Buddhism stresses the oneness of all things. We do not exist as an island apart from others. Our actions have an impact on others and theirs on us. When we go to the Sangha for refuge we are recognizing this oneness. We learn from others. We see their suffering and joy. As a community of seekers we share experiences to help each other. The compassion in the universe becomes real by our interaction with the Sangha.

Buddhism does not seek converts. It is a belief system that recognizes that everyone should choose the path that is right for them. Many Buddhist teachings can be applied to your life regardless of your religion. For more information about Buddhism and meditation in Kenosha contact me at